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In panic mode: Need help in preparation for the eclipse.

Beginner DSLR Eclipse Explore Scientific Mount Astrophotography
37 replies to this topic

#26 bunyon

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Posted 01 April 2024 - 12:57 PM

I'll echo what a few have said. I think automating your camera and using a roughly polar aligned mount in simple tracking mode is worth trying. Worst case, you don't get photos. Just don't mess with it DURING totality. Watch totality. But messing with it right up until second contact is fine.

 

And, no, you won't have it all running well or smoothly or, perhaps, at all, in a week.



#27 Foetoebug

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Posted 01 April 2024 - 07:02 PM

 

You say that "you get a response when I point to objects".  What kind of response are you getting?  And, in what software are you trying to command a GoTo slew?  

 

The primary reason people can't get a software package to properly control the mount is because they have it connected to the PMC8 ASCOM driver.  You probably already know this after my previous comment but it is worth mentioning again just to be sure...  any software packages you use that ask to connect to a mount should be connected to Device Hub (or POTH, if that is what you are using as a hub).  Oh, and don't use both POTH and Device Hub at the same time...  only one or the other.  

Okay, I updated the location & elevation and verified that it was using the correct time/time zone. I don't use Device Hub and POTH at the same time and, before today, I hadn't even tried connecting directly to the mount through any other application. Having said that, I did another rough polar alignment and DID connect it directly to CdC (Skychart) just to see what it would do. It DOES slew through the application that way, but when I instruct it to point to something, the sun in this case, it's still off by a fair amount (pointing west when it was around 1pm). So it will respond to GoTo commands from CdC and Astro Photography Tool, just not where I want it to go. Once I connect the mount back to Device Hub, then connect CdC to Device Hub, CdC refuses to slew anymore and actually closes completely if I hold the slew button for more than a few seconds. Obviously, there's something going on there that I'm going to have to work on in the longer term.

 

Everything you need to connect to a tablet or computer wirelessly is included inside the iEXOS-100.  All the hardware and antenna is already inside the mount.

Wow, I evidently misread that in the manual. I had thought that WiFi was built-in when I was researching the mount, then I read somewhere in the manual that it required the dongle. Obviously, I was wrong. I was able to bring up and connect to it through WiFi, so that is working, thank you!

 

You also mentioned trees blocking Polaris.  For solar astronomy (since this forum is about solar), you simply plop the tripod/mount down as close to true north as you can get it and then level it.  What I do from here after booting up the mount is do a GoTo to the sun.  Then I use my azimuth bolts and altitude adjustment to center your view on the sun.  Done.  From here, if you get some drift (you will, since setup probably was not absolutely perfect), then just use the Drift method of polar alignment.  

 

Oh, and don't forget to set your PMC8 configuration to Solar tracking.  If using Device Hub, that would be in "Choose Mount" --> Configuration (I think that is where the PMC8 Config is located).  If using wireless ExploreStars, then you go into the app's "Settings" and change the tracking rate from "48" to 47.88".  

 

Something to note that is fairly important...  When using ExploreStars for a GoTo slew, the mount will remain in "Pointing Mode".  You need to just nudge one of the direction buttons in any direction to have ExploreStars switch to "Tracking Mode".  Pointing is indicated by the "P" on the main screen while tracking is indicated by a "Tr" on the main screen.  

 

Also, you mentioned trying to use PHD2 as well as something about an RJ12 cable.  I assume you are attempting to utilize the ST4 port?  Maybe?  There is absolutely no need to do that.  Just connect PHD2 with ASCOM Device Hub.  The mount should already be connected to Device Hub because you should have already set up Device Hub to connect with the PMC8.  PHD2 will guide the mount through the hub.  There is no need for that second cable...  well...  unless you are trying to do something else and I made the wrong assumption.

As I mentioned, I've done rough polar alignment a few times now. It's not perfect, I know, but it's in the vicinity. I had already figured out how to change the tracking mode and adjust the rate, so no problem there. 

I ran Explore Stars and got that connected. It does slew the mount, but I was having issues with GoTo in there as well. Namely, I could get it to slew to certain objects (I have no idea whether it was accurate or not), but not all objects, including the sun. It just wouldn't do anything at all in those cases. Again, I'm assuming that I'm missing something.

I only learned AFTER I had ordered the RJ-12 cable that I didn't need it! The seller had told me that I would need one, but I guess he wasn't aware, either. If that's the cheapest thing that I ordered incorrectly (it isn't, lol), then I'll be happy! 

Thanks for the all the help everyone. At this point, since I have basic tracking working, I'm going to settle for that and try to figure the rest out later. I can promise, you haven't heard the last of me! 

 

Scott


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#28 PatrickVt

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Posted 01 April 2024 - 08:53 PM

"Having said that, I did another rough polar alignment and DID connect it directly to CdC (Skychart) just to see what it would do. It DOES slew through the application that way, but when I instruct it to point to something, the sun in this case, it's still off by a fair amount (pointing west when it was around 1pm)."  

 

It really sounds like you have the wrong mount selected in the driver configuration.  Having the wrong mount selected will cause the motor counts to be erroneous.  When you choose the mount you intend to use in the drop-down menu, you should then be clicking on whatever that button is labeled (configure?  settings?  I don't remember but it is probably different in each program) allowing you to change the PMC8 driver settings.  I'm thinking the driver is not set up properly and/or fully.  On a sidenote, I know a lot of people use CdC with PMC8 with great success but I never got it to work right.  I may have had the same problem with CdC suddenly closing as you describe (among other issues).  

 

 

"I was able to bring up and connect to it through WiFi, so that is working, thank you!"

 

I'm glad you were able to connect wirelessly and get ExploreStars connected.  I really enjoy using this app for quick things without the need for a laptop and all that extra stuff.  I often use ExploreStars to slew to one object and I then will stay on that object the whole session.  You can actually set up the mount (using the Universal Firmware Configuration Tool) to continue to track during "loss of comms".  So, even if your tablet drops the connection, for whatever reason, the mount will continue to track.  I don't think this is selected by default so that might be something to look into too. 

 

 

"I ran Explore Stars and got that connected. It does slew the mount, but I was having issues with GoTo in there as well. Namely, I could get it to slew to certain objects (I have no idea whether it was accurate or not), but not all objects, including the sun. It just wouldn't do anything at all in those cases."

 

There's three things I think of when I hear this...

 

1.  Maybe the objects you attempted to slew to aren't available in the sky at the moment?   I know you had previously stated it was 1pm for some of your testing so the sun should have been available but I'll write more on that in the next possible cause of your problem.  I know that some ExploreStars apps (ie, Windows app, iOS app, Android app)  show whether each object is in the sky at the moment or not.  Some do not.  Some only show this info on the Messier objects.  So, could you have tried slewing to something the app knows is not in the sky at the moment?  Honestly, I'm taking a shot in the dark on this one because I don't know how the app would respond in this situation.  It is something about the info in the app that you should know about though.

 

2.  Your location could be wrong in ExploreStars.  By default it is set to Explore Scientific's location.  Also, if you set it to gather location data automatically, you could also get bad data.  For example, my internet provider always shows my location as someplace else (a proxy location?) so I can't set my ExploreStars app to gather location data automatically from my WiFi connection.  I recommend inputting your precise Latitude and Longitude coordinates.  Once you input your own location coordinates, they will stay there unless you go in and change them again.  Of course, if you travel to a different site, you'll need to input new coordinates.

 

3.  Since we are talking about the ExploreStars app not slewing consistently, I know there is no USB/serial cable to check.  Power and power cables, however, could be an issue.  I once had this problem.  I was using a Talentcell power bank for power and I found that I had a bad power cable even though it was new.  My slews were intermittent and sometimes would even stop mid-slew.  But I never noticed that the mount was powerless.  Power problems can cause odd behavior.  If you are using the C cell battery pack, I recommend getting a better power source.  If you were provided an AC power adapter in the purchase of your used mount, I would wonder if it is up to the task.  

 

 

"Thanks for the all the help everyone. At this point, since I have basic tracking working, I'm going to settle for that and try to figure the rest out later. I can promise, you haven't heard the last of me!"

 

You are welcome.  I'm glad you made some progress in the past 24 hours.  Best of luck with the eclipse.  Although I am in the path of totality and I am fully ready for it, the chances of the weather being cooperative this time of year is slim to none.  My health is hit or miss too so that could be a factor as well.  As far as equipment goes, though, I'm ready.

 

Patrick


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#29 Anhydrite

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Posted 02 April 2024 - 12:00 AM

You can tell its tracking by observing in EQMOD the El and AZ numbers slowly changing.

 

Also as others have said........waiting 3 hours and seeing it has moved a bunch.

 

I found with the EQ-6R that I must initiate some goto via stellarium or platsolve first...before tracking starts.



#30 Foetoebug

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Posted 02 April 2024 - 12:46 AM

"It really sounds like you have the wrong mount selected in the driver configuration.  Having the wrong mount selected will cause the motor counts to be erroneous.  When you choose the mount you intend to use in the drop-down menu, you should then be clicking on whatever that button is labeled (configure?  settings?  I don't remember but it is probably different in each program) allowing you to change the PMC8 driver settings.  I'm thinking the driver is not set up properly and/or fully."

 

The driver is definitely set to Explore Scientific iEXOS-100 under ASCOM Telescope Chooser properties. I made sure to verify that early on.

 

Your location could be wrong in ExploreStars.  By default it is set to Explore Scientific's location.  Also, if you set it to gather location data automatically, you could also get bad data.  For example, my internet provider always shows my location as someplace else (a proxy location?) so I can't set my ExploreStars app to gather location data automatically from my WiFi connection.  I recommend inputting your precise Latitude and Longitude coordinates.  Once you input your own location coordinates, they will stay there unless you go in and change them again.  Of course, if you travel to a different site, you'll need to input new coordinates.

 

Okay, THAT was a huge help, and a definite issue I was having. Since I didn't think I had WiFi capability, I hadn't bothered playing with ExploreStars before today, and I couldn't figure out how to change the settings and input proper location data. Now the proper mount is selected in there and the location is correct. It's too late to try anything tonight, but I'll see what that did tomorrow, thanks! Unfortunately, that doesn't affect anything related to ASCOM, so I'm still stuck there.

 

I was using a Talentcell power bank for power and I found that I had a bad power cable even though it was new.

 

Funny you should say that, as the mount did indeed come with a Talentcell bank, although the seller forgot to include the power cable for it. I ordered one from Amazon and it seems to be working without issue.

 

You are welcome.  I'm glad you made some progress in the past 24 hours.  Best of luck with the eclipse.  Although I am in the path of totality and I am fully ready for it, the chances of the weather being cooperative this time of year is slim to none.  My health is hit or miss too so that could be a factor as well.  As far as equipment goes, though, I'm ready.

 

Yes, you've been a great help, thanks again! And the weather in the Plattsburgh, NY area has been fluctuating greatly over the last week, but right now it's calling for mostly sunny on Monday, so fingers crossed! I hope you are able to at least view it and capture some great shots if possible. Best of luck to you also with that and your health.

 

Scott


Edited by Foetoebug, 02 April 2024 - 12:47 AM.


#31 PatrickVt

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Posted 02 April 2024 - 08:10 AM

The intermittent slews are still a concern for when you return from the eclipse trip so, while this is all fresh in my mind, I'd prefer to address these problems now so these thoughts are here when you get back to this after the eclipse.

 

Last night, while I should have been sleeping, the more I thought about my own slewing problems I had way back when I'm remembering all the frustration I had in trying to figure out my intermittent slewing problem.  I had a new Talentcell, including cables I purchased separately, as well as an AC adapter I was using with a previous mount.  I had intermittent slewing for days.  Sometimes it slewed properly.  Sometimes it didn't do anything.  Other times it would only slew part of the way to the target.  I always heard that faint crackle sound of the motors make while tracking so no complete loss of power.  Although, when the slew stopped in mid-slew, I often would have to shut down and boot up again.  The times I didn't have to shut down, however, I would still need to reboot to get the motor counts back to zero.  At the time, whenever I had to freezing in mid-slew problem, I was thinking I just needed a reboot because I would need one to reset the motor counts anyway but the more logical thing is the mount crashed due to an intermittent power issue/arcing inside the cable or at the jack.  

 

After a few days of this intermittent problem, I finally thought to try my AC power adapter which has its own cable.  I had no problems while using AC power so I ordered a new 5.5mm x 2.1mm cable from a different supplier.  The Talentcell worked fine on a larger mount (5.5mm x 2.5mm) so I assumed the Talentcell was good.  When the new cable arrived, I no longer had intermittent problems with slewing.  

 

In my case, I had a new cable that was defective somehow.  Since it seems that your settings are correct in ASCOM, this would be the next logical thing to check.  

 

That being said, let's revisit the ASCOM settings.  I pulled out my laptop to actually step through setup in both Device Hub and POTH so I could write down the exact steps.  I'll type that down below after I close this comment.  

 

Now, there are still settings in each piece of software that you connect to the Hub that must be correct too.  I think you'll understand why I'm not going to go through that exercise.  We won't necessarily even been using the same pieces of software either.  This does remind me of something though....

 

Another problem I experienced with an older mount before I had the iEXOS-100 (so pre-2019) was with ASCOM.  I downloaded and installed ASCOM, ran ASCOM DIagnostics, everything checked out fine.  I had all sorts of problems.  I troubleshooted this problem with the ES engineer for days until he finally recommended I uninstalled ASCOM and re-install.  I did that..  same problems.  I uninstalled and re-installed one more time...  everything was then working as expected.  So there is this possibility too.  

 

Hmmm...  since this problem of intermittent slews happens in both ASCOM serial as well as wirelessly in ExploreStars, that probably eliminates a possible problem with the ASCOM install.  Which also means it is probably not caused by a bad USB serial cable (USB-A to USB-mini cable with no FTDI chipset in it).  That leaves the only common denominator as the power cable, the Talentcell and/or the power jack on the mount.  

 

Hmmm...  power save settings on the computer/tablet you are using could create problems too.  Make sure you have shut off all power saving features.  Also, make sure screensavers are turned off.  And, the next time you experience the intermittent slew problem when wirelessly connected to ExploreStars, go back to Internet Settings to ensure you are actually still connected to the mount.  Some devices like to drop a non-internet WiFi connection when a WiFi connection is available.  Obviously, this is irrelevant when connected to ASCOM through serial but Power Saving features could affect USB ports (possibly, I think) as well as WiFi.  That is something to check too.  

 

Patrick

 

 

So, the setup for Device Hub...

 

Tools --> Setup --> Choose --> ES PMC8 Telescope (in the drop-down menu)

Click "Properties"

Select "iEXOS-100" in drop-down

Select radio button "Enable Serial Port"

Select appropriate tracking rate in the drop-down menu

Go the "Site Data" tab and input all your specific data

Click "OK"

Click "OK"

Click "OK"

Click "Connect Telescope"

 

 

The setup for POTH...

 

Click "Setup"

in the next window also click "Setup"  

Then input all data and info mentioned in the Device Hub steps above

Click "OK"

Make sure site information is correct in this POTH window

Click "Connect"

then click "Okay" to go back to the first small POTH window

 

 

Some 3rd party software also will require you to input all of or some of this data in their setup so make sure you find all hidden places to input info in the software too.  I think all recently updated software probably just reads this info from ASCOM.  Older programs like CdC may require all the info in their setup.  

 

Lastly, if you do still have problems when you have more time to address this after exhausting everything I suggested, THE place to be looking for help is in the ESPMC-Eight groups io.  There will be far more eyes on your problem there and there are about a dozen people in there who can troubleshoot more effectively because they wrote some of the software/driver/help_files/manuals/etc and they know the mount hardware inside and out.  


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#32 Foetoebug

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Posted 02 April 2024 - 09:12 AM

Hmmm...  power save settings on the computer/tablet you are using could create problems too.  Make sure you have shut off all power saving features.  Also, make sure screensavers are turned off.  And, the next time you experience the intermittent slew problem when wirelessly connected to ExploreStars, go back to Internet Settings to ensure you are actually still connected to the mount.  Some devices like to drop a non-internet WiFi connection when a WiFi connection is available.  Obviously, this is irrelevant when connected to ASCOM through serial but Power Saving features could affect USB ports (possibly, I think) as well as WiFi.  That is something to check too.  

Patrick, I am very pleased to say that the mount does appear to be working correctly in ExploreStars after I updated the settings to the proper mount and location data. After doing a VERY rough alignment a few minutes ago, I was able to get it to point in the right direction and vicinity of the sun. I will definitely be looking into the other issues more closely later, but being able to connect wirelessly AND have it working with ExploreStars is the very least of what I was originally hoping for when I received it, so I will consider that a big win! Once I'm home after work tonight, I'll see if I can get a more accurate alignment and report back.


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#33 Foetoebug

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Posted 02 April 2024 - 09:47 PM

Lastly, if you do still have problems when you have more time to address this after exhausting everything I suggested, THE place to be looking for help is in the ESPMC-Eight groups io.  There will be far more eyes on your problem there and there are about a dozen people in there who can troubleshoot more effectively because they wrote some of the software/driver/help_files/manuals/etc and they know the mount hardware inside and out.

Great news! My post over there had a few responses today. Somebody mentioned that, in order for Stellarium to work properly, you need to be in tracking mode in whichever hub you're using. Now I'm able to connect either serially or wirelessly, and I can control the mount in Stellarium. Additionally, although it's in my basement next to the couch I'm sitting on, I did a VERY rough polar alignment using Stellarium on my phone. Stellarium was able to GoTo a very rough vicinity of Sirius. Not close to perfect, but I can work with it. This is all I was really wanting it to do from the beginning. I've got the guidescope imaging properly, and I was able to familiarize myself with PHD2. I think I may be at least 50% along with the autoguiding working, although I'm not so concerned about that as much as the other issues.

 

Patrick, you were a great help!

 

I would like to thank anyone who said I wouldn't or shouldn't get it up and running (at least to basic GoTo functionality). It was a challenge that I couldn't resist! I hope to share some shots from my trip!

 

Scott


Edited by Foetoebug, 02 April 2024 - 10:00 PM.

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#34 PatrickVt

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Posted 02 April 2024 - 10:10 PM

Yes, I saw that your post in the io group had finally been approved by an Admin.  It didn't get posted until later this morning (around 10:30am if I remember correctly).  By then, it was pretty much too late since you and I had already covered most everything!

 

You know...  I briefly thought about mentioning clicking the "Tracking" box in Device Hub because I know that most programs will wait for you to start the tracking.  Then I remembered that Stellarium will always prompt me to "Start Tracking" whenever I forget to tick that box so I felt I didn't need to mention that.  Plus, that "Tracking" tick box is pretty obvious in that small Device Hub window so I assumed you would have seen it.  Sorry I hadn't mentioned that.  I honestly thought you were aware of that or you would have been prompted to start tracking.

 

Guiding in PHD2 can be a bit complicated so that will take some time.  Not only do you need to get familiar with the interface and where to find things but there are many features that need explaining.  It will all come together in time.   Incidentally, a few of us are Beta testing planetary/solar guiding in PHD2 and that is going very well.  I suspect it will be in a new version of PHD2 in the coming months.  That is proving to be an exceptionally useful tool for solar imaging as well as for lunar and planetary.  Sharpcap or Firecapture also has rudimentary planetary tracking (I can't remember which one or if it is both programs) but the reviews have been hit or miss thus far.

 

You'd think that coming from the photography world, this stuff would be easier but different terms are used in astronomy that are termed differently in photography.  I've been doing both photography and astronomy fairly actively for the past 50 years so I have a pretty good idea of where you are coming from.  

 

I'm glad you have the mount working just fine now.  Hopefully it won't give you any problems during your trip!

 

Patrick



#35 Foetoebug

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Posted 02 April 2024 - 10:35 PM

You know...  I briefly thought about mentioning clicking the "Tracking" box in Device Hub because I know that most programs will wait for you to start the tracking.  Then I remembered that Stellarium will always prompt me to "Start Tracking" whenever I forget to tick that box so I felt I didn't need to mention that.  Plus, that "Tracking" tick box is pretty obvious in that small Device Hub window so I assumed you would have seen it.  Sorry I hadn't mentioned that.  I honestly thought you were aware of that or you would have been prompted to start tracking.

So I DID originally have it clicked, but I hadn't realized that it unchecks each time and that it would be something as simple as that. foreheadslap.gif

I should be good to go from this point on, but I'll keep this updated along the way with progress.


Edited by Foetoebug, 03 April 2024 - 04:59 AM.

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#36 Foetoebug

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Posted 10 April 2024 - 02:42 AM

Okay, I'm finally at a place where I have time to get on here. After doing a 7-hr wide angle timelapse that included the eclipse & sunset, I had to drive from the Plattsburgh, NY area on to Stowe, VT. There was standstill traffic on the local interstate due to accidents. I didn't get to my next Airbnb until after 10. Point is, I was successfully able to get closeups using ExploreStars. The tracking wasn't perfect, but neither was my alignment. The first try was too far off but once I realigned and skewed to the sun it put it in the frame. Not centered at all, but I could slew it to the correct spot and sync to target which would hold it there for awhile. I'll post some of those photos when I have a chance. Meanwhile, this photo was taken about an hour before totality and captured the halo people were seeing in upstate NY and surrounding areas. 

Halo

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#37 Foetoebug

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Posted 10 April 2024 - 08:35 PM

First Shot
Big Rock Diamond Ring
Barely Baileys Beads

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#38 happylimpet

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Posted 16 April 2024 - 05:22 AM

 

Wahey!!!





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